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Dry Body Brushing 101

 Bathers Having Fun

Credit: Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Amidst a sea of exotic body scrubs, fragrant lotions, and high-tech spa treatments, the modest practice of dry body brushing may appear a little underwhelming. But although humble in its appearance, the bristle brush offers remarkable, lasting results that only take minutes to accomplish. If you have a body brush discarded in the back of your cupboard somewhere, it’s time to dust it off and enjoy the benefits it offers.

 

Why?

Stimulates the Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is responsible for collecting, transporting to the blood, and eliminating the waste, our cells produce. All detoxification occurs first and foremost through the lymph. If the lymphatic system is congested, it can lead to a build-up of toxins, causing inflammation and a compromised immune system. By invigorating the skin, the practice of dry brushing boosts the lymphatic system and increases blood flow and circulation, helping your body to metabolize toxins more efficiently, making it a potent detoxification aid.

Exfoliation

The process of running a firm, natural bristled brush over the body helps to loosen and shed dead skin cells, encourage new cell renewal and eliminate pesky ingrown hairs. After a few sessions; the skin's texture appears notably softer, smoother and suppler. As a bonus, by minimizing clogged pores, the skincare products applied after dry brushing tend to penetrate better, allowing for your skin to hydrate more efficiently.

Reduces Cellulite

The motion of dry brushing aids to soften hard fat deposits below the skin while distributing fat deposits more evenly, which in turn helps to minimize the appearance of cellulite. The technique is also said to help reduce cellulite by removing toxins that may break down connective tissue.

Improves Digestion

While one of the more immediate effects of dry brushing is plumper looking skin, the process goes below the surface, helping to support your digestion and organ function. In fact,  many naturopathic doctors use dry brushing to help with bloating because massaging the lymph nodes helps the body shed excess water retention and toxins, leading to improved digestion and kidney function.

Stress Relief

The quiet practice of dry brushing can be seen as a meditative ritual. The repetitive upward strokes soothe muscle tension, calm your mind, and relieve stress. 

 

How?

First, you'll need a high-quality dry brush, so make sure to look out for one with bristles made from natural materials (avoid synthetic brushes). Ideally, choose a brush with a long handle so you can reach your entire back and other hard-to-reach spots.

The Technique:

Start at your feet and ankles and brush upward using light but firm strokes. You always want to brush toward the heart because that is the way the lymph flows naturally. After you finish brushing your legs work your way up to your stomach, arms, and shoulders. Your skin may appear a little pink afterward, but it should never appear red or irritated—if it does, you need to lessen the pressure. Make sure to avoid sensitive areas such as open cuts, abrasions, and any patches of eczema or psoriasis.

 

When?

Dry brushing is incredibly easy to incorporate into your routine and should be practiced daily for optimal results. Most experts recommend dry brushing in the morning before getting into a shower, rather than before bed because of its energizing qualities.  An average dry brushing session may last between two and 20 minutes, depending on your schedule.

dry body brushes 

 Left to right, top to bottom: Body Skin Detox Brush, $85, Elemis; Cactus Brush, $19.95, The Body Shop; Natural Dry Body Brush, $30, Mio Skincare and Dry Body Brush, $15.95, Manicare

 

   Written by Sofia Sosunov

Spotlight Ingredient: Tumeric

 

 Tumeric facts for beauty and beyond

Tumeric comes in different forms, but there appears to be no distinct health benefit of choosing fresh over powdered. 
Credit: David Murray/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

From sneaking into frothy lattés to refreshing juice elixirs and mouthwatering curries, turmeric has quickly become 2017’s ingredient du-jour. But does the golden spice live up to the hype? In a word: yes. A member of the ginger family and a long beloved staple in Indian and Asian cuisines, the vibrant orange-yellow superfood is revered for its health promoting properties and makes a common appearance in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. 

Turmeric possesses strong anti-inflammatory qualities and considering chronic inflammation is a key factor in many of today’s widespread diseases – including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes – the fragrant spice can improve a person’s overall health.

Still not convinced? We present to you five reasons why you should add an extra dash of the turmeric to your diet.

  1. ANTICANCER EFFECTS

Curcumin, a phytochemical and the primary healing agent found in turmeric has strong antioxidant properties that prevent the formation of and neutralize free radicals. According to Phyllis A. Balch, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, “It [curcumin] stops precancerous changes within DNA and interferes with enzymes necessary for cancer progression.”   A 2013 international laboratory study looked at the effects of combined treatment with curcumin and chemotherapy on bowel cancer cells. The researchers concluded that the combined treatment shows better results than chemotherapy alone.

  1. PROTECTS THE LIVER

The liver is one of the body’s most important organs. It is responsible for converting food to energy, ridding your body of toxins, and producing bile, a liquid that aids digestion.  Turmeric contains chemical compounds that have been shown to protect the liver from damage, improve its ability to detoxify, and support the regeneration of new liver cells. 

  1. IMPROVED DIGESTION

Turmeric helps to stimulate the production of bile, which in-turn assists the breakdown and absorption of fats from your food. It also reduces the symptoms of gas and bloating for people susceptible to indigestion. In fact, in Germany, turmeric supplements are sometimes prescribed for digestive problems.

  1. IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH

Studies have shown that curcumin can increase levels of the brain chemical BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in animal models. Low BDNF is associated with a host of mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. An increase in BDNF is thought to improve mental health, well-being, and mood. BDNF also stimulates the growth of new neurons in the brain, which could lead to enhanced memory. Studies show that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. LOWERS CHOLESTEROL & IMPROVES BLOOD VESSEL HEALTH

Curcumin stops the oxidation of cholesterol, thus protecting against the formation of plaque in the arteries and the progression of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to cholesterol and plaque build-up), which can lead to stroke or heart attack.

  1. TREATS ARTHRITIS

Because curcumin is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing characteristics, a study was conducted on 45 rheumatoid arthritis patients to compare the benefits of curcumin in turmeric to the arthritis drug Diclofenac sodium, which put people at risk of developing leaky gut and heart disease. The curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall [Disease Activity Score] scores and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac sodium group. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate to any adverse effects. 

  Written by Sofia Sosunov

Eyes Wide Shut: A Guide to Better Sleep

Irving Penn for Vogue, 1991

Irving Penn for Vogue, 1991

Though often overlooked in our caffeinated existence, the importance of adequate sleep goes beyond its power to banish under-eye circles. A good night’s rest is as vital to our health as proper nutrition, hydration, and air. Sleep allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to process information. In fact, your mind is surprisingly busy while you’re dozing off; during sleep, you consolidate your memories and skills you have learned while you were awake.

On the flip side, sleeplessness poses a real risk to our health and well-being. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, people suffering from sleep debt (which means less than seven hours of sleep a night for adults) face a higher risk of suffering from obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and weakened immune function. According to Dr. Jim Horne, author of “Sleeplessness: Assessing Sleep Need in Society Today,” one of the most important factors to improve one’s sleep is peace of mind at bedtime. The reason why many people have insomnia in our frantically paced modern life is that our minds are constantly racing. The issues, problems, tasks and to-do lists in our waking life tend to creep in and intrude our sleep. And life in the smart phone is age is not helping. Quick glimpses of incessant notifications trigger agitated, nervous systems to release floods of hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, causing blood pressure to spike and muscles to tighten.

8 Habits for Better Sleep

We’ve composed eight ways to help you develop a relaxing routine. Remember, by repeating a regular pattern, you condition your body and mind to realize that it’s time to go to sleep. Many activities people do in the evening can be overstimulating. So a bedtime ritual can help you to unwind before hitting the pillow. Snooze away, dear friends.

Create Your Own Sanctuary. For many people, interrupted sleep is caused by external factors such as light, discomfort, noise and uncomfortable room temperature. Treat yourself to a tasteful silk sleeping mask, spray a touch of lavender on your pillow, consider blackout blinds, adjust the room temperature (the last thing you want is to wake up either hot and bothered or chilly and shivering) and have earplugs handy. And, if your mattress isn’t up to standard, let that be your next big investment.

Move Your Body. Studies show that exercise such as brisk walking, light biking and yoga can function much like an antidepressant, decrease anxiety, clear the mind, and help bring on a restorative night of sleep. Also, working larger muscle groups such as your legs in your daily workouts helps physically exhaust your body, making it easier to fall asleep.

Take a Bath. Besides being a relaxing activity in itself, a warm bath helps the body to reach a temperature ideal for rest. Amp up the sleeping potential by adding Epsom salts to your bath.  Stress drains the body of magnesium, which helps to promote rest while improving the quality of sleep and concentration; and Epsom salts are rich in this essential mineral. When the salts are dissolved in warm water, the magnesium is absorbed through the skin and can replenish its supplies; the salts also help relieve your body of toxins.

Sip on Chamomile Tea. Not only can drinking a warm drink before bedtime makes you feel drowsier, but the naturally calming caffeine-free tea has also been proved to have a calming effect on the body.

Breathe. If you find it difficult to switch into sleep mode, try meditation or breathing exercises to get you in the mood. Take several long, deep breaths and focus on what you are grateful for today. By simply concentrating your attention on the positive attributes of your life can bring your whole mind and body into balance and eliminate any sense of anxiety. Headspace offers 10-minute-long meditation sessions which you can interact with on your smartphone, providing instant relaxation.

Eat for Sleep. Tart cherries are one of the few natural foods to contain melatonin, the chemical that helps control our body’s internal clock; we suggest eating some with breakfast and at night. Almonds are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that’s necessary for good sleep. Black rice, sesame, and pumpkin seeds are also good sources. Meanwhile, bananas can promote sleep because they contain the natural muscle-relaxants magnesium and potassium, 

Get Some Sunshine. Starting your day with natural light exposure helps reset your biological clock. It also balances your body’s melatonin and cortisol level. 

Maintain a Regular Sleeping Schedule. Keep your circadian rhythms in check by adhering to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. Yes, even on weekends.

  Written by Sofia Sosunov